The Trump Phenomenon is reasonably divided into two components: a): Trump himself and b): his followers.
For some thoughts on the first aspect (Trump himself), you may want to look at the series of essays I published in January and February (of 2020):
Donald Trump’s behavior (“The Trump Show” … He thinks he’s still doing Reality TV) is being observed through TWO different ‘windows’ – that is: by Those who Believe him … and (through the other window) – by Those who Don’t. And of course the ‘Show’ is the SAME through either window … but the interpretation (of the show) is hugely different.
For example –
Many of the things our Mr. Trump does are distinctly bold and unapologetic. He pursues his (own, private) business interests FROM THE OFFICE of the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, apparently with NO concern about Conflict of Interest. He fires people from his staff whenever he feels like it (for ‘disloyalty’ generally – to HIM, PERSONALLY). He openly attacks anyone who he thinks is not supporting him (the press, journalists, politicians). He grants a pardon to whatever (felonious) buddy of his he feels like pardoning.
Now, his Base regards such behavior as corroboration of his Honesty and Forthrightness – Transparency, you might say. An indication that he has NO DESIRE TO DECEIVE. (Some of them even really LIKE it – that he’s so ‘fearless’ and willing to shake things up)
Whereas these same behaviors are regarded (through the other window) as outrageous … shameless.
Some regard him as a Fountain of Truth. They are able to overlook his (constant) lying because he’s such a Good Guy (our Hope, our Savior). He’s our Leader. AND – he is (after all) OUR PRESIDENT! (He’s Our DAD).
And they are VERY disinclined to change their minds and regard Trump as a scoundrel.
But (as John Bradshaw points out) – the young child of an alcoholic is NOT going to announce to his parents – “Dad, you’re an abusive Alcoholic. Mom, you’re an Enabler. I have packed my bags, and I’m leaving! I’m going to move in with Jimmy, down the street.” This just ISN’T going to happen. A six-year-old simply can NOT do such a thing.
This, you see, is a serious problem.
Because of Trump’s unapologetic Boldness, you might (ironically) hear someone from EITHER group say – “Trump is what he is.” Now, if a Trumper says this, he (or she) would mean – that “Trump is a Real Man. A True Patriot. He tells it like it is! He’s not afraid of anybody! – so he’s not going to apologize for his beliefs. He’s not trying to fool anybody.” Whereas (from the other window) that person would have meant something quite different: “Aside from the fact that Trump lies constantly, he’s consistent, and in a way predictable. Yesterday he did not care about the Country or the Constitution or Democracy (or telling the truth) … and tomorrow he’ll be the SAME. He doesn’t care about ANYTHING but HIMSELF. He’s completely Shameless.”
It seems to me that the fundamental (& PIVOTAL) thing about our President Trump is – that
HE IS A POSER. (He is pretending to be someone he is not. He pretends to speak the truth … but he does not … etc.)
Remember the words of Vaclav Havel –
“Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to prosecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.”
But there are MILLIONS of people who are deceived, and do not REALIZE that our Mr. Trump is a poser.
THIS is what’s interesting! (and terrifying)
HOW does such deception take place?
I hope I can make (good) use of the times I have been deceived. (If you ask me in person for a full account of this, I will be happy to give it; but for now …) allow me to refer to how I was taken in, when I read “The Life of Pi”. I enjoyed this book (very much). And when I finished it, I made some efforts to find Pi Patel, the main character of the story, in hopes of making contact with him. And got nowhere! Then at some point I found out that the author – Yann Martel – regarded this book as something of an experiment in credulity.
I came to the realization that the author had taken me in by using (what seems to me to be) a ‘dirty trick’. We all know that a novel is a ‘made-up story’. Or, it may be a story that is built around a skeleton of truth, but the entire work is offered NOT as a factual account, but as entertainment … or art). But in the case of THIS novel, the writer speaks to us in the ‘front matter’ – prior to the beginning of Chapter One. He tells us there – HOW (in India) he ‘came upon’ the story (which he ‘relays’ in the book.)
The ‘front matter’ (usually, in a volume of non-fiction) often includes an introduction (which may not be by the author, but by some person of distinction.) There may also be a preface, in which the author makes some comments he feels are necessary, so the main body of the work may be properly understood. In any case, we are accustomed to BELIEVING whatever we are told in the front matter. It is UNDERSTOOD – that (even if the main body of the work is complete fiction) in the front matter we are spoken to TRUTHFULLY. And, if the author himself is speaking to us, he speaks to us in a (privileged and) different voice from the one he uses in the body of the work.
Yann Martel uses an “Author’s Note” in the front matter; and this is where he sets up the story (which supposedly begins with Chapter One, etc.) Probably he’s thinking that ‘it’s fair to lie in the Front Matter, as it’s within the covers of the book, and after all, everyone knows that a novel is fiction.
But, you see – it’s a trick. As far as I know, there is no precedent for lying in the front matter.
Anyway, from THIS experience I learned that deception is not only sequential, but hierarchical.
Once I believed the lie that was told in the front matter, that belief contextualized everything which followed it: (everything, starting with Chapter One)
Now back to Trump. We should admit – that Donald Trump is a GOOD actor. (George Burns says – “Once you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made”. [as an actor, he means])
Whenever I watch Donald Trump (on TV … doing his act), I am (distinctly) impressed with how good he looks. How convincing. Now, it is no secret – that the weightiest parts of inter-human communication are NOT the words themselves, but our body language, posture, tone of voice, inflections, facial expressions, pauses, etc.
Mainly without saying so in words, Mr. Trump is constantly telling us (his Base, at least – the ones who have ‘bought the front-matter lie’) – “I’m Sincere. I’m your Leader. I’m a Patriot. I care about you & America. I’m Rich. I’m Smart. I’m Good. I’m Strong. I’m telling you the Truth; I’m your Source for The Truth. I’m Normal; I’m like You. I’m Not-a-Politician; I’m an Outsider (like you). I have Character. I’m your Best Hope” etc.
When I watch Trump, I am able to “receive” all these messages (on a visceral level). And (on that same visceral level) I believe him.
Because – he’s a Good Actor.
And THIS means – that if I am to come to the conclusion that he’s lying to me, that realization will NOT come from immediate here-&-now observation of “the Actor Doing his Act”. It will have to come from elsewhere! (from reading books, or listening to Facts Checkers, or doing my own research into Trump’s history, his motives. Maybe listening to his niece Mary, or to Tony Schwartz, or Michael Cohen … or to Rachel Madow. Somewhere.) Somewhere else.
But – if I have already come to the conclusion that Mr. Trump is who he says he is (that he’s Telling the Truth), I may well be able to find an explanation for the fact that some other people have a different (crappy) view. In Yorkshire they say – “Everyone in the world is queer but thee and me. And Thou’s a bit queer.”
If you have a [strong] interest in this fact (- that we’re all very much inclined to think that we are right, and everyone else is wrong) … I invite you to watch my video:
( trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlfqsL3hTK0
Anyway, the people who watch Donald Trump (on TV) sort themselves into two categories: those who believe him … and those who don’t.
There might be a dozen (important) factors which play into which of these two piles a given person is going to land in, (and while I do not claim to know a great deal about them and what they all are …) I understand that the white adults who are Trumpers turn out to be mostly ‘uneducated’; and from this we may infer that Education plays a significant role in this sorting process.
It happens to be my view – that ALL HUMAN BEHAVIOR (i.e., anything anybody has ever done) is but an example of what every one of us is capable of. So – we need to do our best NOT to be snotty (superior) about it. That would be inappropriate. We are all (mainly) the same.
Yet our DIVIDE (how we have sorted ourselves) has become very great; and it’s of some importance that we understand it.
And of course, the entire (Trump) phenomenon is now dripping with Judgement problems and taboos of ‘Political Correctness’.
But it still has to be done. We need to deal with it.
I think Chris Hayes does a pretty good job of making sense of the situation –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_uV0RZZn98 (How Do You Govern When Half The Country Is Trapped In A Disinformation Bubble?)
Just because our Mr. Trump seems to be (consistently) failing in his attempts to use the courts (etc.) to overturn the election, we should realize that he is doing mainly a good job of taking advantage of the possibilities that are available to him … and that he’s smarter than we are (in some ways). He realizes that he is in a position of Epistemological Authority for millions of people (his ‘base’). Because they have decided that HE is the one they trust to tell them the truth about (whatever) situation we’re in; and THIS is an enormous power ! I suspect he is (with all his ‘efforts’ to overturn the election) positioning himself to be able to explain to his base – that the System is rigged (against him). [And, of course, one of his best ‘hooks’ is – “I’m an Outsider, like you”! When General Washington crossed the Delaware, the (British) general, Cornwallis, had ‘gone home’, because he reckoned the ‘war was over’! We were a rag-tag bunch, with almost no budget and very little logistical support. The (Rebel &) Underdog are deeply ingrained into the American psyche.]
Suppose someone were to pass him (Trump) a note on which is written a fairly simple (and true) piece of information: that ‘his actions are weakening the structure of our democracy’. Would that dissuade him? Of course not. He doesn’t think like that. He is not love-driven; and he is not truth-oriented. He is more like a disembodied (evil) force … which DOES (unfortunately) have a body to work through; but it has NO INTERNAL MEANS OF CONSTRAINING ITSELF. He has become a (truly) terrible hazard.
He is such an accomplished actor that whatever he says is (now) going to be believed by tens of millions of people. The fact that his legal efforts are proving ineffectual may well prove to be of less importance than his (‘well-earned’) ability to say (to his base, in the very final days of his presidency) – “We have been sorely wronged! Everybody knows the truth – the election was rigged ; and I was the winner. The Whole System is rigged!”
And we should NOT expect him (ever) to admit defeat, or to admit that he (ever) did anything wrong.
But as Michael Cohen points out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBpg0DYTIpQ we need to take seriously the matter of how to minimize the damage Trump will be able to do in the future.
We should (all) pray for Healing … and hope for the Grace to work toward unity.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miz1V13QWsU (Freedom Writers [trailer] )
I mention this film here (“Freedom Writers”) because it offers an image of healing … of becoming a Family. And this is exactly the task before us. (and it’s based on a true story.)